Dr Cath Bishop – Author of The Long Win, business coach, medal winning Olympic rower and former diplomat

January 4, 2021

From being categorised as ‘not a sporty child’ to winning and Olympic medal and authoring a best selling book on winning. What and incredible insight and experience!

Dr Cath Bishop is an Olympian, former diplomat, business coach and author.

She competed in rowing at 3 Olympic Games, winning World Championships gold in 2003 and Olympic silver in Athens 2004. As a diplomat for the British Foreign Office for 12 years, Cath specialized in policy and negotiations on conflict issues, with postings to Bosnia and Iraq. Cath now works as a business consultant, leadership coach and author, and teaches on Executive Education programmes at the Judge Business School, Cambridge University and is a Visiting Professor at Surrey Business School.

Cath speaks at events globally on topics of leadership, high performing teams and cultural change. Her first book ‘The Long Win: the search for a better way to succeed’, published October 2020, was described by the Financial Times as ‘a deep and rewarding exploration of human motivation in sport, politics, business and our personal lives’ and listed in their Top 10 Business Books for 2020.


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Success Quotes or sayings:

I didn’t know how to access sport and fitness at an early age

The concepts were playing out – trying hard at school, wanting to learn and working out how I could become better at something

I was interested., curious and intrigued

I was conscientious and hard working and used these principles

Really understanding – what’s the drama behind the piece

Searching and being curious all the time

Find something that is so exciting I want to bury myself in it

I was categorised as not a sporty child

I saw opportunities which I believed were not open to me

There was a real joy when I found sport – it was all mine

Striving is a real part of me – I struggle to switch it off

The tension between the learning process and performance outcome measurements

An interest in looking at things beyond just the answer

Peoples answers and reactions gave you a sense there were ‘good ways to go’ and ‘bad ways to go’

What about them – this is what I often struggle with – the constant segregation

I was doing well but feeling  really uncomfortable at the same time

I feel uncomfortable about the labels we put on people

I was totally released from outcomes – it was a really lovely thing. I just wanted to do ourselves proud

I realised the was a process of ‘you just have to get on with it!’

You had to opt in – there was no option of opting out

The scenario was – I cannot run away so had to run towards. There was no spotlight on JUST you!

Focussing on yourself as well as others

I am afraid of the water and still am…. Yet being ON the water is my favourite place

Lots of things exclude you…how can we emphasise how to INCLUDE you

[Watch for] sweeping statements that teachers (and developers) make

Fun being so important even when we put in more training and take things ‘more seriously’

The performance narrative that arrived was dense and oppressive – but thought that is what you have got to do to be an Olympic rower?

I then threw myself into this narrative…

I tried to learn all this ‘dominant winning language’. I found this really hard!

I am so glad I loved the sport and being on the river

Having a broad network of connections and friends was so important

My other interests were a lifeline and necessity for me to be able to perform

I did things to an obsessive degree which at times came at a cost

The importance of compassion and mindfulness in sport

Seeing sport in the broader framework is really helpful to performance

Making sense of the obsession with winning – who are the real winners?

You can’t control the result…you can control what you do.

Let’s see what we can learn and then see where it takes us…

Importance of connecting performance at a deeper level and to what comes afterwards

Curiosity and learning is the positive fuel

It is not about enjoying sport and therefore lowering standards – which is often what people fear


Quick fire questions:

The books that you would recommend are?

Rebel Ideas: The Power of Diverse Thinking by Matthew Syed

A Bigger Prize: When No One Wins Unless Everyone Wins by Margaret Heffernan


How do I prepare to be the best version of myself…

Time to exercise everyday

Be really present and in the moment


In one sentence – What advice would you give to your teenage version of yourself?

Don’t obsess over the results, be present and more of what I take joy from


Who has made a big impact on you?

Ron and Roger – coaches I had at University


Whos’ Sport Story would you be really interested in hearing?

Daley Thompson – Decathlete



Coaching questions I would like to pose:


What perceptions do you have of yourself and others that are limiting and how might you change them?


How has your position in your family helped or hindered your beliefs and attitudes towards hard work and success?


How would you define success for you on your own terms?


How does being the best version of you and the notion of ‘winning’ sit for you?


Win or lose: What are you going to gain regardless of the result?



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